The Complex Environmentalist: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Ethos of New Deal Conservation

  • Brian Black
Part of the The World of the Roosevelts book series (WOOROO)


When the nation’s leader assured citizens gripped by the difficulties of the Great Depression that they had “nothing to fear but fear itself,” he needed to immediately manufacture substantiation.1 The source of such optimism might be most readily found in the spirit of Americans’ propensity for hard work and innovation. However, after discussing this fact, the leader made an extension that drew directly from his own passion and experience for the natural environment. “Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it,” he continued. “Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.”


Environmental Ethic Vice President National Archive Warm Spring Landscape Design 
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  1. 3.
    The most effective discussion of FDR’s life with polio is Richard Thayer Goldberg, The Making of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Cambridge: Abt Books, 1981).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    There is no shortage of biographies of Franklin during each stage in his life. For this analysis, I have used Geoffrey C. Ward, A First Class Temperament (New York: Harper and Row, 1989).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    This sensibility was well known in Jefferson’s writings. Most famously, he referred to agriculturalists as “the chosen people of God.” For a discussion of these points, see Charles A. Miller, Jefferson and Nature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    heodore was second cousin to Franklin and uncle to Eleanor. He gave Eleanor away at her wedding to Franklin. See Paul Russell Cutright, Theodore Roosevelt, the Making of a Conservationist (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Samuel P. Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999), 264.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Richard W. Judd, Common Lands, Common People (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    See Nash, Wilderness or Peter J. Schmitt, Back to Nature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Richard White, essay “Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?: Work and Nature,” contained in William Cronon, Uncommon Ground (New York: Norton, 1996), 171–73.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Historians have explored this connection. See, e.g., A.L. Riesch Owen, Conservation Under F.D.R. (New York: Praeger, 1983).Google Scholar
  10. Edgar B. Nixon, Franklin D. Roosevelt & Conservation, 1911–1945 (Washington DC: National Archives and Records Service, 1957).Google Scholar
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    Roosevelt, Elliott, ed., FDR, His Personal Letters, Early Years (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947), 459.Google Scholar
  12. 63.
    John Morton Blum, Roosevelt and Morgenthau (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970), 10–20Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Henry L. Henderson and David B. Woolner 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Black

There are no affiliations available

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